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USD 489, Hays-NEA styles might change





Hays USD 489 and Hays-NEA bargaining unit representatives could be changing their negotiating style.

The school district has been using interest based bargaining (IBB) since the mid-1990s, said Kim Schneweis, president of H-NEA and co-chairwoman of the bargaining unit.

Current board policy states IBB be used, and whether the process is still in practice was discussed at several negotiations meetings.

After Schneweis asked for clarification at last month's labor management meeting, the board of education is planning to review the language dealing with IBB.

Negotiators using IBB list issues to be considered, each side identifies its interests in the issue and the group develops options. In traditional bargaining, each side first presents a proposal.

"It's a more effective, professional, productive style of bargaining," she said.

Negotiations and the board's demeanor at the table began to change two years ago, Schneweis said.

An IBB training session took place in 2011 because some of the board were new to the process. John Doern, commissioner at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Wichita, also assisted with some of the sessions that followed.

At that time, all of the board members sat in on negotiations, along with some administrators. Last year, the board voted to have just the board president and vice president on the negotiating team.

Union representatives aren't advocating a move away from IBB, just that the policy and bargaining style match.

"We can't have it unless they want to, too," Schneweis said. "If they don't want IBB, the next step is traditional bargaining."

"IBB has its place," Interim Superintendent Dean Katt said. "It works well when you start. ... When you get down to salary, it reverts to traditional bargaining."

"We feel good about the success we've had with IBB," Schneweis said.

A positive, cooperative relationship has been the biggest benefit, she said.

"If (we're) open and share information through the year, I still think we can have open relationships," Katt said.

Though the union representatives prefer IBB, "we can have successful traditional bargaining," Schneweis said.